Category Archives: History

College Tuition In The 1920s – The Low Cost Of Getting Higher Education

Harvard, Dartmouth, Bowdoin, Bates, & Colgate All Cost Under $250 Per Year in 1920

There is no need to go on a diatribe about the rising cost of college tuition. Instead, let’s go back to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper from nearly 100 years ago (August 25, 1921). The headline read. Demand For Higher Education Increases in Face of Higher Cost of Tuition and a Slackening Demand For Help.

What exactly were those higher costs?

College           1921 Tuition
University of Georgia  FREE
University of South Carolina $40
William and Mary College $50
Clark University $100
Bates College $125
Bowdoin College $150
Johns Hopkins University $150-250
Dickinson College $160
University of Vermont $175
Colgate University $180
Boston University $225
Dartmouth College $250
Harvard University $250
Tufts College $250

To give some scale to these tuition costs, the average annual salary of a civil service employee was $1,220 (male), $1,047 (female). Ranges for clothing workers were between $1,100 – $2,500 per year. Rectors and ministers were paid about $2,300 per year. A locomotive engineer made about $3,300 per year. A buyer for a major department store could make as little as $1,000 and as much as $15,000 per year, but the majority made between $5,000-$10,000.

Today college costs have grown to a point that they are completely out of whack with the rest of the economy. Top private colleges charge between $45,000 – $55,000 per year and that does not include room, board, books and other fees. Continue reading

A Progressive New York City Hotel In 1929 Hired Women Bellhops

In 1929 The Almanac Hotel In New York City Became The First Hotel In The Country To Hire Women Bellhops

Hotel Almanac girl bell-hops

New York Hotel Using Girl Bell-Hops

The newest wrinkle in hotel service these days is girl bell-hops. The Almanac Hotel, New York City, is probably the first hotel in the country to use girls for bell-hop service. Hotel customers say they give “real service” too. Here are three of them standing by while a patron registers. The girls are, left to right: Eleanor Julin, Mildred Wilson and Edith Gillin. – Associated Press Photo 11/13/1929

Only at the high class hotels do you still find bell-hops. Until the 1970s, almost all hotels had them.

The Almanac Hotel, (aka Hotel Almanac), was being “progressive” at the time, by hiring female bell-hops, in what was traditionally a male occupation. Or were they? Continue reading

Politically Incorrect Bubble Gum Cigarettes

You Won’t See It On Candy Store Shelves – Bubble Gum Cigarettes

Salem bubble gum cigarettes – fun for kids!

If you grew up before 1980 it was common to see this package at many candy shops, drug stores and supermarkets – bubble gum cigarettes. And yes, they were intended for children. There were also chocolate cigarettes and hard candy cigarettes, also marketed to children.

I must have “smoked” over a couple of hundred packs during my childhood.

Somehow it didn’t corrupt me or make me crave a cigarette. As a matter of fact I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.

Shaped as a cigarette with paper covering the gum, it was a way for kids to look and act like adults. The way it was displayed, was it obviously bubble gum? Only if you looked at the top and side of the packages.

For any kid, the best thing Continue reading

New York City Used To Kill Its Stray Dogs By Drowning Them

How A Merciless City Dealt With Its Unwanted Dogs

In 19th Century New York, You Had 24 Hours To Retrieve Your Lost Dog

Unclaimed Dogs Were Drowned In The East River

The dog catcher in New York City & the dogs fate- drowned in cages in the East River – illustration Harper’s Weekly

The Dog Dilemma

What happens today when animal shelters are filled to capacity? Sometimes cats and dogs are humanely euthanized, if there is such a thing as being humanely euthanized.

Canine population control in 19th century New York was much harsher. Beginning in 1855 a new and brutal method of putting down dogs was instituted – drowning.

Some editors and citizens actually attached the word “humane” to this new way of disposal.

Before that time, wandering dogs were considered pests and usually killed on the spot, in the street. The fear of rabies and mad dogs was used as a justification for the wanton killing.

The New York Times wrote, “One thing, however, is certain: dogs are useless animals in cities, and are a nuisance, independent of their habit of occasionally running mad; and the best dog law would be one that imposed so high a tax on the owners of curs that few people would care to keep them, and those who did would see to it that the animals did not run at large, muzzled or unmuzzled.” Continue reading

Losing Your Head, 19th Century Elevators That Decapitated People – 16 True Stories

Fatal Elevators In The 19th Century

In the late 19th century quite a number of people lost their heads in elevator accidents. Most press accounts of the incidents were thankfully short. But a few of the stories were described in sensationalist and sometimes sickening detail. The most common headline, “Decapitated By An Elevator,” as you’ll see, was not very original, Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #94 – The Williamsburg Bridge Under Construction

Williamsburg Bridge Under Construction As Viewed From The East River 1901

From a personal photo album comes this previously unpublished 1901 view looking north from the East River.

Besides all the vessels navigating the heavily trafficked waterway, we can see the completed towers of the Williamsburg Bridge. The cables of the bridge have been completed but the roadway beneath the span is absent.

The first bridge crossing Kings County to Manhattan was the Brooklyn Bridge, opening in 1883. It would take another 20 years before the next great span, the Williamsburg Bridge was completed. Continue reading

What Were The Best New York City Restaurants In 1929?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Columnist Rian James Shares His Picks For The Best Restaurants in New York City in 1929

Rian James (1899-1953) may not be a well known name today, but back in the 1920s and 30s, he was a widely read journalist and  “man about town.”

In 1933 James took a stab at writing for the movies. He wrote the screenplay for 42nd Street, one of the most successful and popular films of the 1930s. James would go on to write over three dozen screenplays.

As a columnist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1928-1935, James rambled all around New York City. Along the way James hobnobbed with everyone: the well-to-do, the hoi-polloi, actors,  and bohemians, in the process, hitting all the night spots. The stories James gathered made for a widely read column about the city he loved.

Four times a year the Eagle published a small guide Going Places With Rian James casting his top picks in New York City food and entertainment.

For the Summer 1929 Going Places, a good portion of  James’ 32 page booklet is devoted to dining. Unlike the modern Zagat restaurant guides or Yelp, consensus was not considered. The only thing that mattered was James’ opinion. James knew all the “in” places, the haunts of celebs, the exclusive, the ribald and the popular.

Proving he’s no snob, the best New York restaurant according to James is not at a high class hotel or Madison Avenue establishment. It’s Feltman’s, originator of the hotdog, in Coney Island that wins the prize.  James writes, “The best all-round food in all New York, excluding no place.”

This is a New York booklet written for New Yorkers.

James offers a unique slice of the New York dining scene just prior to the October 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The good times were to end soon after.

While there were a ton of contemporary guidebooks published about New York City, very few delved into the restaurant scene. James’ punchy one line descriptions tell you a lot more than many a detailed review.

The writing has some jazz age jargon such as “Beeway” for Broadway and “black and tan” for an establishment that has race mingling between Blacks and Caucasians. Sometimes there’s an “inside”, long forgotten, or even a risque reference such as this one:

BARNEY’S – 85 W. 3rd St.
The best bet for whoopee in the Village.

In other words, where you have the best chance of hooking up.

James later wrote several full length books about New York City: a full guidebook All About New York An Intimate Guide; John Day (1931) and another not surprisingly titled, Dining in New York; John Day (1934).

While you peruse this list, you may recognize some names long gone from New York’s glorious culinary past. Other eateries you never heard of just sound like they would have been a blast to visit.

What is stunning in the transient world of dining, is that there are a small number of restaurants that are still in business nearly 90 years later.

We have left Rian James’ spelling, grammar and punctuation as it is written in the booklet.

So with that, here is Rian James’ New York City’s restaurant recommendations for the summer of 1929, divided into his appropriate section headings in bold.

Restaurants of All Nations

Name      Address       Nation

L’AIGLON – 55th, E. of Fifth Ave. French
Complete French Cuisine.LUCHOWS – 110 E. 14th St. German
Complete German Cuisine. Try the German Rye Bread. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #72 – Outtake Photo Of The Legends Of Comedy

Outtake Photo of  The Legends of Comedy

Just before posing for a formal photograph, an unnamed Globe photographer captured this informal moment. This photograph was unpublished until now. Flanking the seated Lucille Ball are (l-r) Milton Berle, George Burns, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx and longtime Lucy co-star Gale Gordon.

The only one who seems ready for this photo is Lucy. Everyone else is completely distracted.

The photo below Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #93 – Police Parade With The Old “Broadway Squad” 1930

New York City’s Finest On Parade With The Broadway Squad Of The Police Department Dressed In Their Old Uniforms

Though these officers bear a resemblance to Mack Sennett’s Keystone Cops, they are actually old-timers of the New York City Police Department’s Broadway Squad dressed in their uniforms of days past.

The slug for this photograph reads:

Little Bit of Old New York

New York City – One of the features of the annual New York Police Department Parade, which was held in New York today, was the appearance in the ranks of the surviving members of the old Broadway Squad, who twenty years or more ago, directed the traffic and the peace of New York’s “Great White Way.” –  4/26/1930 credit: Wide World Photos

Stationed all along Broadway from the Battery to 42nd Street were the Broadway Squad. They were specially selected officers who were all over six feet tall. While that might seem like nothing special, at the turn-of-the-century anyone over six feet in height was considered quite large.

In 1898 the Broadway Squad was described as “ninety of the tallest, best proportioned and finest looking men on the police force.” Continue reading

The Startling Changes in New York From 1873 – 1923

Robert Underwood Johnson Tells Of New York In 1873 and How It Changed Over 50 Years

Everything today seems to be moving at the speed of light. Changes of all sorts have greatly altered our everyday living in ways that might have been unimaginable 20 or even 10 years ago.

Some might argue there was more change at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century than there is today. All the people who lived through and witnessed that change are long dead. Maybe if you heard it from someone first hand, it might make a greater impression upon you.

Fortunately we have people like Robert Underwood Johnson (1853-1937) who put down his memories in his book, Remembered Yesterdays (Little, Brown & Co., 1923) which serves as a living time capsule of that period.

Johnson was a long time editor at The Century Magazine, a leading monthly periodical which covered news art and literature. Johnson also wrote regularly for Scribner’s Magazine.  Along with John Muir, Johnson was one of the main forces behind the creation of Yosemite National Park.  Johnson personally knew every major personage imaginable during his lifetime and his memoir reflects that.

What I found particularly interesting was a brief chapter entitled “New York in the 70’s” (meaning the 1870s). In that chapter, Johnson compares the New York City he arrived in, in 1873 with the present (1923).

This is what had occurred over 50 years. Below is an excerpt from the book:

A STUDY IN CONTRASTS

LOOKING back it is difficult to identify the New York of that time, just beginning to feel its strength, with the brilliant metropolis of to-day. Think of the points of contrast! In 1873 there were no electric lights, no skyscrapers, no trolleys, no blazing, twirling or winking signs and thus, of course, no Great White Way, Broadway being preéminently the street of business and there being little or no shopping on the cross streets above Fourteenth. Continue reading